My Final Ride by LeAnn Bednar
I thought I'd have to push myself to read this book about a Teton Valley man's ride along the Great Western Trail after he's diagnosed with cancer. I was wrong, though. I found it fascinating. Written in first-person by Chuck Christensen's daughter from his journals, newspaper articles, and interviews with people who rode with him, it's a day-by-day account of his two-part journey. Part one is from Teton Valley, Idaho to the Mexico border and part two is from Teton Valley to the Canada border a couple of years later.
About halfway through the book, I suddenly realized that I know one of his daughters and a couple of his grandkids and I've met his wife a few times, which made the book even more enjoyable. I'm pretty sure I know others of his relatives, but the family trees in these parts, while well-known to the locals, are confusing and complex and have taken me years to even begin to understand and remember. But even before I recognized the connection, I was riveted.
I learned a lot about traveling with mules and horses and how it's different from backpacking. Apparently, there's a special bond between mule and horse people, and it was moving to read about the help Chuck received from people along the way who didn't know anything about him except that he was traveling with mules and horses. As a sometime hiker and backpacker, it was interesting to read about wilderness travel from a different perspective. Also, if I ever meet up with a horse- or mule-rider on a precipitous mountain trail like you might find in the Grand Canyon, I will be very still and quiet as they pass. Just FYI.
I loved this book about a tenacious man who rode through pain and discomfort like I've never experienced. Chuck is a fascinating character -- thoughtful, educated, curious, stubborn, tough. There are so many different kinds of people in the world, and I was glad to learn about this one.